Children's rights 'being systematically breached'

Poverty, abuse and a harsh criminal justice system mean Government is failing in its legal obligations to the young, charities warn

England is "systematically" breaching international human rights laws protecting children, according to a damning new report released by a coalition of Britain's biggest children's charities to coincide with the 20th anniversary of the UN Convention on the Rights of the Child.

The use of Asbos to name and shame teenagers, the Government's failure to prevent parents from beating children, and an increase in the number of children living in poverty are just some of the ways in which the rights of young people are being undermined, according to the report on the state of children's rights in England to be published on Friday.

More than 130 children have been threatened or shot with Tasers since they were issued to police in 2007. Thousands of children, some as young as 12, are imprisoned each year. And, in London alone, more than 2,000 under-15s were stopped and searched under anti -terror laws last year.

The findings are in sharp contrast to the Government's pledge to make the country "the best place in the world for children to grow up". The Children's Rights Alliance for England (Crae) – a coalition of more than 250 organisations including Save the Children, Unicef and the NSPCC – is calling for the UN convention to be adopted in law so that children's rights can be properly upheld.

Mike Lindsay, Crae's national co-ordinator, said: "The Government is breaching directly and systematically several important rights for children. The areas where we continue to do most wrong by our children – for example in criminal justice, equality, media reporting, asylum-seeking and child abuse – are those where, as a society, we have clearly failed to give sufficient regard and emphasis to children's human rights."

The life prospects of children – particularly those who are refugees, in detention or living in poverty – are being made worse by the lack of protection of their basic human rights, according to the report.

There are an estimated four million children living in poverty, with the Government likely to miss its target of halving child poverty by 2010 and eliminating it by 2020.

Commenting on the report, a spokesperson for the charity Save the Children said: "The huge level of child poverty is one of the most severe and ongoing violations of children's rights in the UK." The civil rights organisation Liberty said Britain is a "less friendly place to be a child in 2009 than in years gone by. If we are to be measured on the treatment of the most vulnerable in society, then our current record must bring shame on us all."

Past governments have deliberately ignored children's rights, said Mr Lindsay: "Governments have chosen to set their face against international obligations on children's rights in favour of political rhetoric and expediency. We've got it now with the Tories declaring war on youth and Labour trying to match them with their intention of getting tough through Asbos."

Children continue to be sent to prison far too readily and for longer than necessary, and are still subject to controversial forms of restraint, campaigners say. Although sending children to prison is supposed to be a last resort, England and Wales have one of the highest child custody populations in the Western world, standing at an average of 2,932 in 2007-08, it says.

And despite an independent inquiry in 2008 recommending a reduction in the use of physical force to control children, cases have risen by 25 per cent in young offenders' institutions, with restraint used 4,274 times in the year to March 2009 – an "unacceptably high" figure according to the report.

Frances Crook, the director of the Howard League for Penal Reform, said: "Locking troubled children up in prisons is inhumane and shameful. It is time to rethink and restructure the way we deal with our most troubled and challenging young people."

A spokesman for the Department for Children, Schools and Families said: "Research tells us the majority of children are happy, healthy and able to achieve their potential. But we know this is not the case for every young person, and we are working to ensure that all children have access to the support and opportunities they need."

Equality: Girls and boys share the same ambitions

Girls and boys are ignoring the gender prescriptions of previous generations and having exactly the same ambitions, according to new research that suggests true gender equality could become a reality within a generation.

Girls are as likely as boys to see themselves supporting families, and boys are as likely as girls to regard marriage and child-rearing as a significant part of their lives, researchers found after talking to 845 schoolchildren aged 11 or 12.

Professor Paul Croll, from the Institute of Education at the University of Reading, said: "It is fascinating that there simply isn't any gender stereotyping for this generation. When girls talk about wanting a job, it is so they can provide for their families. They don't see that as the husband's role."

The government-funded study also found that more schoolchildren, including those from disadvantaged families, were considering the possibility of higher education, with only one in five children intending to leave school at 16.

Susie Mesure

Sport
The sun rises over St Andrews golf course, but will it be a new dawn for the Royal and Ancient Golf Club?
sportAnd it's Yes to women (at the R&A)
Sport
Yaya Touré (left) and Bayern Munich’s Spanish defender Juan Bernat
footballToure's lack of defensive work is big problem for City
Arts and Entertainment
Liam Neeson said he wouldn't
tv

Liam Neeson's Downton dreams

Arts and Entertainment
A spell in the sun: Emma Stone and Colin Firth star in ‘Magic in the Moonlight’
filmReview: Magic In The Moonlight
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
News
ebooksAn unforgettable anthology of contemporary reportage
Sport
Wembley Stadium
footballNews follows deal with Germany
Voices
voicesApple continually kill off smaller app developers, and that's no good for anyone
Arts and Entertainment
Ben Whishaw is replacing Colin Firth as the voice of Paddington Bear
tv

Thriller is set in the secret world of British espionage

Sport
A 'Sir Alex Feguson' tattoo
football

Life and Style
life

News
ScienceGallery: Otherwise known as 'the best damn photos of space you'll see till 2015'
Life and Style
fashion

Bomber jacket worn by Mary Berry sells out within an hour

Sport
Andros Townsend is challenged by Vladimir Volkov
football
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Volunteer your expertise as Trustee for The Society of Experimental Biology

Unpaid Voluntary Position : Reach Volunteering: Promising volunteer Trustee op...

Email Designer

£30000 - £35000 Per Annum: Clearwater People Solutions Ltd: Our client is curr...

Psychology Teacher

£110 - £130 per hour: Randstad Education Reading: Psychology Teacher needed fo...

Food Technology Teacher

£85 - £120 per day: Randstad Education Cheshire: Randstad Education are curren...

Day In a Page

Mystery of the Ground Zero wedding photo

A shot in the dark

Mystery of the wedding photo from Ground Zero
His life, the universe and everything

His life, the universe and everything

New biography sheds light on comic genius of Douglas Adams
Save us from small screen superheroes

Save us from small screen superheroes

Shows like Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D are little more than marketing tools
Reach for the skies

Reach for the skies

From pools to football pitches, rooftop living is looking up
These are the 12 best hotel spas in the UK

12 best hotel spas in the UK

Some hotels go all out on facilities; others stand out for the sheer quality of treatments
These Iranian-controlled Shia militias used to specialise in killing American soldiers. Now they are fighting Isis, backed up by US airstrikes

Widespread fear of Isis is producing strange bedfellows

Iranian-controlled Shia militias that used to kill American soldiers are now fighting Isis, helped by US airstrikes
Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Topshop goes part Athena poster, part last spring Prada

Shoppers don't come to Topshop for the unique
How to make a Lego masterpiece

How to make a Lego masterpiece

Toy breaks out of the nursery and heads for the gallery
Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Meet the ‘Endies’ – city dwellers who are too poor to have fun

Urbanites are cursed with an acronym pointing to Employed but No Disposable Income or Savings
Paisley’s decision to make peace with IRA enemies might remind the Arabs of Sadat

Ian Paisley’s decision to make peace with his IRA enemies

His Save Ulster from Sodomy campaign would surely have been supported by many a Sunni imam
'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

'She was a singer, a superstar, an addict, but to me, her mother, she is simply Amy'

Exclusive extract from Janis Winehouse's poignant new memoir
Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

Is this the role to win Cumberbatch an Oscar?

The Imitation Game, film review
England and Roy Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption in Basel

England and Hodgson take a joint step towards redemption

Welbeck double puts England on the road to Euro 2016
Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Relatives fight over Vivian Maier’s rare photos

Pictures removed from public view as courts decide ownership
‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

‘Fashion has to be fun. It’s a big business, not a cure for cancer’

Donatella Versace at New York Fashion Week